Monday, February 13, 2012

Barbecued Eel

Here's a fun little tip for a Saturday afternoon. Head over to the Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester, and find the fish section. In a plastic bucket at the base of the counter lie a bunch of relatively sedentary eels. After Google searching 'fileting an eel' on your phone, you will draw the conclusion that the internet is a failure and you're completely unqualified for the process. So ask whether they can do it for you.

Now if, and only if, you have the help of a buddy who speaks Cantonese, you'll be able to get a semi-helpful response, which will be similar to the one I received, roughly translated to, "Make the white boy do it." After some back-and-forth they will agree to help if you tip the dude a dollar. Victory!

So, around the crabs, to the back area you go. The guy will put it in a bag, smash it against the cutting board, then cut the the thing open with scissors and filet the terrible beast, all the while yelling and making dramatic gestures. It was tense. Show-boating at it's best. Well worth the buck.

After all this, we took the eel back home, washed it over and over in a centuries-old process formally known as slime minimization. After making several attempts to skin it, we decided to give up, and cut it into 3-inch long pieces. Next up, we rubbed it with:

Garlic powder

Then we soaked it in a marinade for 1.5 hours:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 a bay leaf per piece eel

We brought the egg to low (about 180 degrees), threw in a couple cherry-flavored wood pieces that came with the charcoal, and cooked the eel pieces for 3 hours, brushing them with oil and turning every 30 minutes or so.

While painstaking and lengthy, the process resulted in a slightly charred snack that tasted somewhere between chicken and tilapia. Delightful.

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